At the last WTPF meeting I learned about the Magellan laptop project of the Portuguese government. Every participant was provided with such a laptop for the duration of the forum, at the end of which the laptops were supposed to be donated “to children in a developing country.” I am not sure where exactly they went, but many of the participants got to keep their laptops and were provided with a lot of information about the project.
The Magellan initiative, named after the 16th century explorer, is a collaboration between Intel and the Portuguese government. According to Mr. Mario Lino, Minister of Public Works, Transport and Communications, it is part of the government’s commitment to development of the “information society” in Portugal. The aim is to deliver those laptops to 1.1 million students registered in their e-school program and supposedly 800K have been already deployed. Moreover, the initiative is looking to expand beyond the Portuguese borders. A number of times during the forums it was mentioned that a really large shipment of Magellan laptops (if I remember correctly about 200K) went to Columbia and shipments to other corners of the world are on their way.
The project representatives I talked to at the forum were not ready to say how much it would cost if someone wanted to by a batch of these machines. They sold them on spot for 250 Euro a piece, but told me that the price will be negotiated per project depending on the quantities and the educational needs of the client. From my neighbor on the flights back to the US, whose kid participates in the program, I learned that in Portugal those laptops are distributed for 50 Euro maximum (if the family is not eligible for any additional subsidies). If the family falls in certain category, it would get not only the laptop for free, but also an internet connection as long as there are children aged 8-10 in the household and their participate in the program.
Indeed, the program is very well known in Portugal. I was lucky enough to receive one of those laptops and carrying it around and taking it on the plane attracted both attention and comments of the locals who were really proud about their local laptop traveling to the US.
Digging into it, Magellan laptop is the Classmate PC in a different cover. I think Intel have handled it really smart with this project. They gave the Portuguese government the ability to repackage their Classmate PC so that it could be presented to the world as a Portuguese laptop and the Portuguese government could take the credit. In other words, the Portuguese government rips political dividend while helping Intel disseminating their technology. Sort of a win-win situation.
The laptops are indeed assembled in Portugal (from parts made in China), which makes it the first European laptop. My version came with Windows XP in English, but from my neighbor on the flights back I learned that machines distributed in Portugal come with dual boot of XP and Ubuntu. Moreover, they come with an educational software, which according to my neighbor was rather buggy and not very useful. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the software.
The size, the design, and most importantly the purpose of the laptop (and the entire program), raised an immediate comparison to OLPC and XO, but on that (and more on the specs of the laptop) in a latter post. In the meantime, here are few more pictures of the machine with some comments.